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DailyDirt: To Infinity Mars And Beyond!

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

The space race to get people to the moon and other destinations in our solar system has pretty much stalled. But a few billionaires and some really passionate hobbyists are trying to build rockets that will get people off our planet (with wildly varying success). Suborbital flights are difficult, but they're not really enough to get some serious space exploration going again. Still, we gotta start somewhere, right? Here are just a few projects that could get people into outer space on the cheap. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

Filed Under: biosphere2, crowdfunding, diy space, manned missions, mars, mars colony, mars one, space, space exploration
Companies: copenhagen suborbitals, paragon space development corp, spacex


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2014 @ 6:21pm

    Robots

    We are close to no longer needing human labor at all. It will all be mindsweat in getting the right robot to fix the broken structure or robot. Once that happens, colonies can easily be self sustaining with a few thousand people and genetic monitoring.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2014 @ 7:11pm

      Re: Robots

      Why would they need people at all? Just self-replicating and sustaining robots!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jezsik (profile), 6 Oct 2014 @ 7:05am

      Re: Robots

      Imagine the return on investment for robotic space exploration! With concerted effort, we can start a fourth industrial revolution. Robots can take over the most mundane of human jobs enabling us to do what we do best. Unfortunately, we're really good at killing each other.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Paraquat (profile), 2 Oct 2014 @ 7:19pm

    I know I harp on nuclear energy, but...

    I know I harp on nuclear energy, but I just never see any mention in these articles about how they intend to power these interplanetary rockets and Mars colonies.

    It will require nuclear power. Without it, manned space flight beyond the moon is out. However, these days it just isn't fashionable to be pro-nuclear, even when we're talking about Mars.

    Fossil fuel on a planet with no oxygen in the atmosphere is useless, since it won't burn. And the possibility of finding fossil fuel on Mars is slim, though I won't dismiss it completely. The thin atmosphere makes Martin wind power equally useless. It is sunny on Mars, but that's not sufficient to generate enough heat to survive night time temperatures of minus 100 degrees Celsius. No hope for hydro-power or geothermal either. A Martian colony powered by solar and wind is going to be a graveyard, populated with colonists frozen to death.

    So if Elon Musk is serious, he ought to be talking about this. I hope he doesn't think that the colony can be powered by his lithium-ion batteries, recharged with a long extension cord from earth.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 4:53am

      Re: I know I harp on nuclear energy, but...

      "It will require nuclear power. Without it, manned space flight beyond the moon is out."

      Human space flight has many, more pressing issues than the lack of nuclear driven engines.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 9:28am

      Re: I know I harp on nuclear energy, but...

      "Fossil fuel on a planet with no oxygen in the atmosphere is useless, since it won't burn."

      The oxygen doesn't have to be in the atmosphere. It just has to be provided to the engine. There actually is plentiful oxygen on Mars. It's in the polar ice and soil rather than the atmosphere, but it does exist.

      However, yes, nuclear power will be essential for the trip. I don't think that's quite as large of a hurdle as you do. We have already launched a few spacecraft with nuclear power plants, after all, without any serious opposition. There's a world (ahem) of difference between a nuclear power plant on Earth and one in space -- in space, any accidents won't cause a problem on Earth and disposal of nuclear waste is a nonissue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Oct 2014 @ 10:37pm

    CMEs are still an obstacle to the Mars shots, yes?

    Mars One still raises the question about Solar CMEs which would have baked the moonshot astronauts to a nice golden brown. Without the Earth's electromagnetic field, one needs about eleven feet of concrete to protect humans from this particular marvel.

    During Apollo we just aimed for low-solar-activity seasons and prayed a lot. Not possible with a 9-month mission to Mars.

    Last I checked, according to the folks at JPL, we haven't solved this problem yet.

    Is Mars One going to risk its crew on providence, or do they have a plan?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 12:04am

    Mars reminds me Total Recall, and the movie reminds me TSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sjclynn (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 11:32am

    One-way suicide mission....

    I don't agree. Yes, it is one way as there are no plans to ever return and participants know that going in. Yes, it is risky; there is a good chance that (some) participants may expire sooner than if the stayed here. That said, much the same arguments could have been made for the early settlers of North America. It was dangerous and many died. It was one way as few could afford to return. No where have I ever seen the migration experience described as a suicide mission rather than an adventure.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 12:58pm

      Re: One-way suicide mission....

      Thank you for this. The "suicide mission" thing was bothering me, too. Particularly since I'd go on such a Mars mission in a heartbeat if I could, but at no time would I think of it as any more of a suicide mission than life itself is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      CK20XX (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 1:45pm

      Re: One-way suicide mission....

      Eh... I'm afraid I'd have to go with the "suicide mission" crowd.

      Mars is about half of Earth's size, meaning it has about half the atmosphere as well, but still plenty of gravitational pull, so there's not enough air to help cushion you from the planet's gravity during landing maneuvers. That means parachutes barely work and rockets become a liability because of all the heavy fuel they need. You can't land more than a single robot at a time on that planet. And you can only launch toward the planet when it's in alignment with Earth, i.e. once every fifteen years, plus the price for a settlement trip would be about the same as the combined GNP of the Earth's largest countries.

      Even if you overcame all that and landed on Mars, there's no water there and, again, not enough atmosphere, which not only means not enough oxygen to breathe no matter how much of it you synthesize, but no protection from the sun's ultraviolet and gamma radiation and not enough pressure keeping your muscles from going soft, such as your heart or even your eyes. How does spontaneous cardiac arrest or blindness sound to you? It could be before or after you develop cancer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 2:56pm

        Re: Re: One-way suicide mission....

        There is actually quite a lot of water on Mars.. The catch is that nearly all of it is frozen. Still, it's there if you have the energy to melt it. Based on Curiosities readings, NASA estimates that you'll get couple of pints of water from heating a cubic foot of your average Mars soil. If you're at the poles, then you have even more.

        True, there are a lot of things to be overcome before the mission can begin, this is true -- and even then, it will be incredibly dangerous. But calling something a "suicide mission" is disparaging -- as if that's the most important aspect of the idea. It's a little like saying that using a bellows on a campfire is "suicidal" for the fire since it burns all its available fuel much more rapidly, when the important part is that it burns larger, hotter, and brighter.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          CK20XX (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 5:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: One-way suicide mission....

          I don't think it's anything like using a bellows on a campfire, actually. That sounds like some gross oversimplification on your part.

          I do admire the idealism of going to Mars and cannot fault anyone for pushing the boundaries of what humanity can accomplish, but realistically speaking, we're probably going to get destroyed in the chaos of global climate change before we manage to settle on another planet. And I may continue saying that just so modern scientists can use gloating over me as motivation to accomplish the impossible like they've done many times in the past.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 6 Oct 2014 @ 9:03am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One-way suicide mission....

            "That sounds like some gross oversimplification on your part."

            Of course it is. But it's no more of a gross oversimplification than calling it a "suicide mission" -- and it's a lot less insulting.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Michael Ho (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 4:14pm

        Re: Re: One-way suicide mission....

        CK20XX,

        Mars actually has much less than "half" the amount of Earth's atmosphere, and there's some debate over the cause. Mars may have had a thicker atmosphere in the distant past, but it could have been stripped away by the solar wind. The Earth's atmosphere might be protected by the solar wind due to its strong magnetic field....
        http://www.space.com/11187-earth-magnetic-field-solar-wind.html

        As for the term "suicide mission" -- that can be debated endlessly until we see the actual viability of the technical specs of Mars One in 2020-something. (So far, I'm not convinced that Mars One will even have a reliable launch vehicle -- unless it purchases one from SpaceX/etc -- much less a viable spacecraft for a multi-week space journey.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          CK20XX (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 5:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: One-way suicide mission....

          Wow... that's a fascinating read there. Thanks for sharing that.

          And I will admit, at the very least, that going to Mars is probably a less suicidal mission than all the wars we've been having recently.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 5:19pm

      Re: One-way suicide mission....

      "it is one way as there are no plans to ever return and participants know that going in"

      The whole premise is rather astonishing, considering the fact that there is nothing to gain by doing so other than notoriety.

      The hurdles jumped in their crossing of the Atlantic are in no way similar to those faced by crossing the space between Earth and Mars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 6 Oct 2014 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re: One-way suicide mission....

        "considering the fact that there is nothing to gain by doing so"

        I disagree. What is to be gained is the exploration and experience. I would go in a heartbeat, but "notoriety" isn't in my list of reasons why at all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sjclynn (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 5:51pm

    I certainly agree that the challenges facing a Mars mission are orders of magnitude beyond that of settling the New World but, my point was that calling it suicide demeans even the discussion. The first English colony in Roanoke (1587) disappeared completely. In Jamestown, only 61 of 500 survived the Starving Time. Dead on the shores of a foreign continent or on a foreign planet was, or will be, the result of similar root causes. Lack of resources, failure of resupply or unexpected perils. What the Mars settlers can probably leave off of the risks list would be previous inhabitants less than happy to welcome them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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